–Chief Justice Nisar warns ‘strict action’ against those who fail to follow court’s orders
KARACHI: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday said that he will make sure the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) tasked with investigation of the money laundering scam receives full cooperation from the Sindh government.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court’s Karachi Registry heard the case in which the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted that Rs54 billion were laundered through 107 fake accounts.
Head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) Ahsan Sadiq was present in the court, along with other officials.
In his briefing to the apex court, the JIT head revealed that Omni Group owed Rs73 billion in loans – Rs23 billion to National Bank of Pakistan while the remaining Rs50 billion were borrowed from Sindh Bank, Summit Bank and Silk Bank.
Moreover, the CJP said that he will make sure the JIT receives all the documents they need from the Sindh government for the probe.
The top judge, during the hearing, at one point even considered summoning Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to make sure that his orders were followed by the provincial setup.
As the hearing began, the CJP said, “Where is the Sindh chief secretary; there are reports of non-cooperation,” to which the chief secretary replied that all records have been shared with the JIT and they had acknowledged the same, however, he stated that the documents are yet to be scrutinised.
Despite the chief secretary and the JIT head’s statements, the chief justice was unsatisfied and remarked: “Tell the chief minister to come see me in the chamber. I am in Karachi until [the JIT] does not receive each and every record.”
It was reported that the CJP received complaints regarding the lack of cooperation from the Sindh government and other departments for the probe and was informed the JIT was only able to retrieve documents after the apex court intervened.
It was not clear whether an official order of the CM’s summoning was also passed, as later in the hearing the chief justice remarked: “All secretaries have assured their complete cooperation. This cooperation should continue.”
The judge, however, made it clear that “strict action will be taken against those who do not follow court orders”.
CJP Nisar also asked Advocate General Salman Talib to ensure cooperation and added that the apex court will fix a hearing if any problem arises.
FIA DG Bashir Memon, in a brief chat with the media outside the court, confirmed that “the Sindh government has now started cooperating” with the investigation.
Meanwhile, detained banker Taha Raza, who is one of the accused in the case, told the court that he has fractured his leg and needs treatment.
The court granted Raza’s request and ordered for him to be transferred to a hospital.
Earlier, the JIT head informed the bench that the quantum of alleged illegal transfers and transactions has been increased from Rs35 billion as Rs47 billion, adding that thousands of fake accounts have been identified through which the transactions were made.
Earlier this week, one of the chief accused in the case, Aslam Masood, was arrested by Interpol as he was boarding a flight from London to Jeddah.
The FIA said that his arrest was a “breakthrough” in the case as he is the “mastermind” behind the scheme. He was one of the chief suspects in the case, along with 19 other suspects, including former president Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.
The Supreme Court (SC) had issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Masood, who was declared an absconder, in August. The court had also issued non-bailable arrest warrants against other absconding suspects, including Nasser Abdullah Lootah, Nimr Majeed, Arif Khan, Adnan Javed, Mohammad Umair, Mohammad Iqbal Arain, Azam Wazir Khan, Zain Malik and Mustafa Zulqernain.
Masood, according to his red warrant, is accused of forgery, cheating, impersonation, corruption and money laundering.
MONEY LAUNDERING CASE:
The case was initially registered in 2015 against former Pakistan Stock Exchange Chairman Hussain Lawai, who is widely believed to be close to former president Zardari.
In July, Lawai was arrested in connection with the probe along with the Omni Group chairman, Anwar Majeed, and his son, Abdul Ghani Majeed, were also arrested by the FIA. Lawai, Majeed and his son remain under custody for interrogation.
Investigations so far have revealed that several ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made.
The amount, according to the FIA, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.